Biggie Smalls' Influences In Food

Biggie Smalls taught Salon columnist Francis Lam how to write about food. Or more precisely, rapper Biggie Smalls, aka The Notorious B.I.G. showed Lam who he would be as a food writer. Biggie's raps about food-from cookies to lobster-drew connections between characters in the raps, the rapper, and the listener. Lam's writing now emphasizes the shared communities of food. It took cassette labeled "Best of Big" to inspire Lam's future interest in food communities. Although Lam's never killed a man, Biggie's stories about buttercrunch cookies helped Lam understand the symbolism of food. Lam writes in his Salon column, "everyone can imagine the horror of hunger, the anger it can engender. Everyone, no matter how hardened, can remember the foods that defined their childhood. And everyone knows, whether you are eating sardines or lobster, that what you eat and what you want to eat says much about you."

14 years after Biggie's death, his lyrics still resounds in Lam's ears and the ears of his adoring fans. In "Juicy," Biggie raps that he was "born sinner, the opposite of a winner, remember when I used to eat sardines for dinner." At the end of his life, Biggie was eating lobster, not sardines. Still, his treatment of food transcends class boundaries while simultaneously observing how deep class divides the experience of food.

Rereading Lam's Salon columns, it's clear how Biggie's music continues to influence his writing. To read Lam's entire piece on Biggie, click here.

Click here to listen to Biggie's music.